Erykah Badu has finally released part 2 in her New AmErykah series, following up 2008’s amazing Part 1.  I was under the impression this was going to be a two part concept, commentary on the state of the USA and the world, but it turns out that this disc is a much more straightforward piece of work, with subject matter reminiscent of Badu’s earlier recordings.  It feels like she lost her nerve at some point between the two albums, and decided to go with something a lot more accessible, which ends up feeling like a light breeze on a summer’s day compared with Part 1’s tornado.

The new album has been released into a storm of publicity, thanks to Badu stripping down in Dallas while filming the video for “Window Seat”.  I’d given up waiting for this some time last year, and the only reason I heard about it was because of the nudity in the video, so if it was simply a publicity stunt, it’s obviously worked.  She has come under significant criticism for filming the video, which has had the effect of beating up the story even more.

Given her track record I’m inclined to believe it was done in the name of artistic expression, and any publicity she was chasing was to open people’s minds to her idea, rather than sell records.  Badu herself said it best in an interview with the Dallas News: “The song “Window Seat” is about liberating yourself from layers and layers of skin or demons that are a hindrance to your growth or freedom, or evolution.”

Badu brings her usual blend of soulful singing and perceptive, witty lyrics, matched with smooth sonic backgrounds that ooze past the listener’s ears, making it an enjoyable album.  Sadly, for me there is nothing really arresting about any of the songs.  In fact, the only track that made me stand up and take notice was “Turn Me Away (Get Money)”, simply because the first strains of the Sylvia Striplin sample kicked in and I had terrifying visions of a Lil Kim and Erykah Badu collaboration.

Ultimately, New Amerykah Part 2 (Return of the Ankh) is an enjoyable album, which disappoints mainly because of its mind-blowing sibling Part 1.

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